COVID-19 Team Update: Vaccination Information

Banner showing COVID-19 virus

Since the beginning of the pandemic, many of our hopes have been pinned on the development and distribution of a vaccine. We finally saw the light at the end of the tunnel when the first vaccine, and then a second, were approved. As Secretary Bunch described, this is a tremendous scientific accomplishment. Now, across the country, people are beginning to receive inoculations, which will be delivered in two doses.

Dissemination of the COVID-19 vaccine is taking place at the state and local level based on recommendations developed by the CDC and the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices. These guidelines cover occupation (i.e., being an essential worker), age, health status, and other risk factors. This methodology allows for those most in need of the vaccine to receive it first. As vaccines continue to be administered, more of us will become eligible to receive it.

The Smithsonian is attempting to obtain the vaccine for our staff. We have not yet received any doses but will continue to work toward being able to vaccinate our employees. Until then, we are providing staff information about how and when to become vaccinated in their respective states, cities, and counties.

Those who are at higher risk of becoming severely ill and essential employees, including many Smithsonian essential employees, are now becoming eligible to receive the vaccine. Here are a few key points to be aware of:

The vaccination eligibility criteria vary by state. To help you determine which vaccination phase you qualify for and what phase your area is in, we have gathered this list of state resources. Keep in mind, this information is changing rapidly and may vary not just by state, but also by county or locality. Check these resources often to ensure you have the latest information. The COVID-19 Response team is exploring ways to provide the Smithsonian community with the most up-to-date information about access to the vaccine, but please follow news from your local health departments.

Essential workers may be required to prove their work status to secure a vaccination. Unit leadership will soon be providing essential workers with the documentation they need to demonstrate their work status. Remember to bring this documentation and your Smithsonian ID with you to your appointment.

You may use paid Administrative Leave for the purpose of getting vaccinated. The Secretary has authorized employees to take up to three hours of administrative leave to receive each dose of the two-part vaccine. Please follow your unit’s leave request guidelines.

Occupational Health Services (OHS) will track vaccinations to protect our community. Providing your proof of vaccination to OHS does several things. First, it allows OHS to better manage the amount of vaccine the Smithsonian will need to provide in the future. It also allows us to better understand the Smithsonian’s health and safety needs, facilitate contact tracing, and provide COVID-19 testing recommendations. The proof of vaccination you provide will be placed in your confidential medical record. Our goal is for OHS to provide future doses of vaccine to staff members. Please send proof of your COVID-19 vaccination (first and second dose) to OHS’s dedicated email address at OHS-MedicalReview@si.edu.

Continue to follow the Smithsonian’s health and safety guidelines. Once vaccinated, you will still need to follow the safety protocols that the Smithsonian has put in place, including wearing a face covering and practicing social distancing. It will take time for your body to develop immunities after both doses of the vaccine. While the COVID-19 vaccine prevents you from becoming ill, it is still unknown if the vaccine can stop people from carrying or spreading the virus. To ensure you are protecting others, even though you are well-protected yourself, you must keep following all safety guidance.

Vaccines, much like face coverings and social distancing, are a critical tool in our arsenal to protect against the spread of the virus. We encourage anyone able to be vaccinated to get vaccinated. These vaccines have been tested and have shown to be safe and effective. We strongly encourage all staff to get vaccinated in their localities as soon as they become eligible. Wherever you can get vaccinated first, please take that route.

We know you have many questions about the vaccine, and in the coming weeks, the COVID-19 Response Team will be sending out more information, posting vaccination updates on the COVID-19 website, and providing additional venues for questions and discussion. Should you have immediate questions or concerns, please email the COVID-19 Response Team. Thank you for your continued dedication to keeping our community safe.

Stay safe and be well,

COVID-19 Response Team

Posted: 13 January 2021
About the Author:

Alex di Giovanni is primarily responsible for "other duties as assigned" in the Office of Communications and External Affairs. She has been with the Smithsonian since 2006 and plans to be interred in the Smithson crypt.